Sleeping Beauty, a Legend in Progress


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Tim Scholl

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In 1999 the Maryinsky (formerly Kirov) Ballet and Theater in St. Petersburg re-created its 1890 production of Sleeping Beauty. The revival showed the classic work in its original sets and costumes and restored pantomime and choreography that had been eliminated over the past century. Nevertheless, the work proved unexpectedly controversial, with many Russian dance professionals and historians denouncing it. In order to understand how a historically informed performance could be ridiculed by those responsible for writing the history of Russian and Soviet ballet, Tim Scholl discusses the tradition, ideology, and popular legend that have shaped the development of Sleeping Beauty. In the process he provides a history of Russian and Soviet ballet during the twentieth century.
A fascinating slice of cultural history, the book will appeal not only to dance historians but also to those interested in the arts and cultural policies of the Soviet and post-Soviet periods.

Tim Scholl participated in the planning and production of the Maryinsky Ballet’s reconstruction of Sleeping Beauty and has written about it for the New York Times. An associate professor of Russian at Oberlin College and a docent in the Theatre Research Department of Helsinki University, he is the author of From Petipa to Balanchine: Classical Revival and the Modernization of Ballet and is a frequent contributor to Ballet Review.

“Everyone wants to know how the old Russian ballets came to be, how they changed history and why we are still in their thrall. Tim Scholl tells us.”—Francis Mason, editor of Ballet Review

“By drawing together the history and rhetoric surrounding various Russian Sleeping Beauty productions and foregrounding inconsistencies and partisan debates, Scholl proves yet again that the ‘texts’ of canonic story ballets are particularly slippery entities. ‘Will the real Sleeping Beauty please stand up?’ he seems to be asking. It’s not a question easily answered, but Scholl’s exploration of the debates that surround Petipa’s legacy and the authenticity factor are revealing. Scholl begins to unpack the baggage Sleeping Beauty has accumulated since its premiere in 1890, admirably trying to sort out the competing myths and ideological agendas that still haunt the ballet’s latest ‘authentic’ version, reconstructed amid new controversies in the Russia of 1999.”—Jennifer Fisher, author of Nutcracker Nation: How an Old World Ballet Became a Christmas Tradition in the New World, and assistant professor at the University of California, Irvine

“This admirable book is nothing less than a history of Russian and Soviet ballet during the twentieth century. Scholl not only charts the changes that took place in Sleeping Beauty over time but also registers the changing attitudes toward the ballet and its aesthetic and how these attitudes reflected the ideological shifts of the past hundred years.”—Lynn Garafola, co-editor of The Ballets Russes and Its World

“[An] extremely well researched and well written book. Essential. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals interested in ballet history and the arts and cultural policies of the Soviet and post-Soviet periods.”—Choice

“This fascinating and readable book, which reveals the importance of both independent research and a healthy scepticism where historical sources are concerned, contains an appendix of the 1890 production’s reviews, as well as an extensive bibliography.”—Elizabeth Godley, Dance International

"[An] engaging, erudite volume."—Simon Morrison, Slavic and East European Journal

“[In] his fantastic new book . . . Scholl follows the ballet over the course of its century-long existence.”—Gia Kourias, Time Out New York

"This is a fascinating book, yielding up more of the richness and complexity of its material with each re-reading"---Dancing Times

Selected as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2005 by Choice Magazine
ISBN: 9780300099560
Publication Date: April 10, 2004
256 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
19 b/w illus.